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Toms, DiMarco in 36-hole final today at LaCosta



Published: Sat, February 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The finalists were competitors in college -- Toms at LSU, DiMarco at Florida.

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) -- David Toms is headed for the final of the Match Play Championship for the second time in three years, thanks to a sensational stretch of golf never seen at this tournament.

He twice hit a 5-wood closer to the hole than some players can lag a putt.

He hit a 9-iron into the cup for an eagle.

Over his final eight holes, he never hit an approach shot outside 12 feet. The only time he was in trouble and had to hack it sideways out of the rough, Toms hit a wedge into 6 inches to save par.

"I was doing OK until he went mad," said Ian Poulter, a helpless victim at La Costa Resort. "He just had a spell in the middle which was difficult to play against. There was really not a lot I could do."

Toms improved to 17-5 in this event with his 3-and-2 victory over Poulter.

Command performance

Along the way, he made everyone forget about the big names long departed from the Accenture Match Play Championship. Toms delivered a command performance -- nothing more sensational than his birdie-eagle-eagle stretch that deflated Poulter -- and set up an All-American final for the fourth straight year at La Costa.

Chris DiMarco, who played against Toms in college, recovered from a disastrous start against U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen. He was 3-down after three holes, then birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine and closed him out, 2 and 1, when Goosen three-putted on the 17th hole.

"Obviously, there's only two of us left," DiMarco said. "And one of us has to win [today]."

After 62 matches crammed into three days involving 64 players from 18 countries, the 36-hole final comes down to two guys who competed against each other in college -- Toms at LSU, DiMarco at Florida.

Big check to winner

Toms and DiMarco will play a 36-hole final with $1.3 million on the line.

Two-time defending champion Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh were long gone from La Costa. Their absence left no shortage of sensational golf, particularly from Toms.

He's headed for the final. His 5-wood might be headed for a museum.

From 192 yards in the middle of soggy ninth fairway, Toms hit his 5-wood into 4 feet for birdie and his first lead of the match. Then he took a little off a 9-iron from 123 yards in the 10th fairway that spun back into the cup for birdie. And from 235 yards on the par-5 11th, Toms hit another 5-wood that stopped 2 feet away.

That 5-wood is a charm. It's the same club Toms used to make an ace in the third round of the 2001 PGA Championship, which he won by one shot over Mickelson.

"I can't seem to find one I can hit any better," Toms said.

Started out slowly

DiMarco's victory seemed unlikely after he lost the first three holes to Goosen, and stood over a 6-foot par putt on the fifth hole to keep the deficit from getting any worse.

"He got off to a great start," DiMarco said.

"I was just trying not to lose 8 and 7."

But Goosen lost a ball in the tree, and DiMarco found his groove on the back nine with four birdies in five holes to pull away.

Just when it looked as though he might give back the lead, DiMarco made a 10-foot par putt on the 17th hole, and Goosen three-putted for bogey, missing a 3-footer to end the match.

"I couldn't hit it near enough to the flag to make the putts," Goosen said.




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